Patrick Drahi, the owner of the telecom group Altice, is on track to purchase Sotheby’s, the high-profile auction house, for $3.7 billion.
The acquisition would turn Sotheby’s into a privately owned concern after 31 years as a publicly listed company on the New York Stock Exchange. Drahi said the acquisition had “no capital link with Altice Europe or Altice USA” and would be funded through the bank BNP Paribas, as well as by equity provided from his personal holdings.
“For my entire life, I have been passionate about this industry and I believe the opportunities and growth potential are significant for Sotheby’s,” said Drahi, who described the stories auctioneer as a “fascinating and multi-secular company” which has been “uniting people all over the world through culture and arts.”
Drahi said he doesn’t anticipate any change to the company’s strategy or management.
Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, said that Drahi “has a long-term view and shares our brand vision for great client service and employing innovation to enhance the value of the company for clients and employees. This acquisition will provide Sotheby’s with the opportunity to accelerate the successful program of growth initiatives of the past several years in a more flexible private environment.”
Drahi, whose stake in Alice USA has increased from about 34% to 38 % in the last 12 months, plans to “monetize a small position in Altice USA [worth] up to $400 million by the end of the year.” He said he does not intend to sell any shares in Altice Europe NV and will continue to be fully committed to Altice’s telecom and media businesses, notably Altice Europe and Altice USA. The Sotheby’s transaction is flowing through the BidFair USA entity, which Drahi controls.
Drahi already has a footprint in the U.S. through Altice’s acquisitions of cable operators Suddenlink in 2015, Cablevision in 2016 and most recently, the digital news operation Cheddar.
LionTree Advisors served as advisor to Sotheby’s in connection with the transaction, with Sullivan & Cromwell LLP as the company’s legal counsel. BNP Paribas and Morgan Stanley are acting as financial advisors to BidFair.